Several years of work as a psychiatrist lies in the background of my pastoral ministry. In these combined career paths, I have frequently met people suffering from mental health challenges within the church community. And over time, I have come to recognise the challenges the average minister and church workers face as they support individuals with mental health problems.

Ministers and church workers frequently come across people with mental health problems and need to be well-informed on the nature of these conditions. Their understanding of this subject should be from a holistic perspective, and not only purely from a spiritual perspective in all cases.

The fact of the matter is that people seeking help for mental health problems are drawn to the church and related charitable organisations. Such help can be for a purely spiritual need, welfare, or emotional or physical well-being. Often, people seeking such help could be church community members. Others can be infrequent attendees, seekers from outside the mainstream church, or strangers. Regardless of the reason for identifying with or visiting a place of worship, the compassion expected serves as an uncommon attraction

to a church community or any caregiving setting. Indeed, the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world, the Bethlem Royal, founded in 1247 was a place where people with mental health crises received help, succour and safety.

The church community here refers to the mainstream congregation, a place of worship, Christian-based charitable organisations and ministries. Many of these play important caring roles in society and are frequently visited by people with mental health problems for their physical, material and emotional needs.

The scope of the book covers the demography represented in a typical church congregation or church community and the typical social context for mental health problems. The common mental health challenges that the average minister of religion is likely to encounter in their ministry are included in specific chapters.

The book is written from the experience and perspective of a church minister. However, the underlying principles are relevant to other faith communities where people with mental health problems attend for shared spiritual experiences.

It intends to bridge the gap in the minister’s knowledge in terms of the provisions available in mental health services. It provides

useful information and tips on how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of some aspects of mental health regulatory practices and mental health laws.

This book would not have been written without the courage of those individuals who have blazed the stigma of their mental health problems to seek help in my ministry and from the church community. They are the inspiration behind this book.

I have also been encouraged to write this book by fellow ministers and Psychiatrists who saw the need for a book like this for a non-medical reader in the church community. I am particularly grateful to Pastor (Dr) Funsho Fabiyi, and Apostle Stephen Odularu, for their thoughtful comments on the manuscript, and to Professor Joe Adeyemi, a Consultant Psychiatrist, for his clinical perspectives on the contents of the book.

I am indebted to my wife, Fola, and our children for their support and thoughtful ideas in developing the content and layout of the book.

I commend this book to all ministers of the Christian faith and the church community workers who faithfully support people with mental health problems as they labour in the vineyard of the Lord. I

pray that this book will be a helpful resource that will endow you with the knowledge to make you a real blessing in this very challenging area of the ministry.

It will also serve as a helpful source of information for people with mental health problems, their families and friends and others in the church community.

May the name of the Lord be praised as healing virtues flow through the application of the knowledge and the information in this book.